The New York Islanders opened training camp Thursday for the 2013-14 season. But this year’s grand opening was different from any other in the club’s 40-plus-year history. This year, the Isles took to the ice for the first time at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn. In 2015-16, it will become their new home arena.
The players and assembled members of the media took the Long Island Railroad out of Glen Cove and headed to the Atlantic Avenue terminal in Brooklyn, a trip of roughly 40 minutes on the train. From there, it was a two-block walk to the arena which is already the home of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets.
Isles defenseman Travis Hamonic was excited to be heading to the team’s future home.”This will be my first time in the building,” he admitted. “It’s a pretty cool way to go, just jump on the train. Obviously it’s a world class building and I can’t wait to see it first hand.”
Hamonic grew up in Manitoba and had an interesting take on the commute into Brooklyn. “I grew up in a small town in the middle of nowhere. If we were driving to the city, it seemed like we drove an hour and we drove nearly everywhere we went,” Hamonic recalled. “For me, a little train ride is not that big a deal. Long Islanders, you can sit in traffic for an hour or an hour-and-a-half or you can hop on the train and get right there. We are moving but we’re not moving too far. It’s just a short train ride in. Hopefully we can gain some more fans in Brooklyn and the neat thing is we’re not alienating our fans on Long Island.”
The team posed for pictures outside and inside the arena. Then the players headed down to the locker rooms for meetings and to prepare to take to the ice for the first time in training camp. Meanwhile, the media got a tour of the Barclay’s Center from Bruce Ratner and Brett Yormark, the arena’s CEO.
The arena itself is beautiful although it does have a few quirks because it was constructed for basketball and concerts rather than for hockey. A few of the 15,813 seats have obstructed views and the scoreboard is over one of the blue lines rather than over the red line. But the sight lines from almost everywhere in the arena are excellent and there is a sense of intimacy that is both exciting and unique.
Unlike the venerable but aging Nassau Coliseum, the Barclay’s Center is full of luxury boxes, has spacious concourses and amenities that fans in Uniondale can only dream of in the old barn.
Isles owner Charles Wang was truly excited to see the arena all set up with his club’s logo on center ice and four Stanley Cup championship banners hanging from the rafters next to the Nets retired numbers and ABA title banners. Despite his obvious enthusiasm, Wang reiterated that his team would honor its lease and play their final two seasons at the Nassau Coliseum.
So Thursday, September 12, 2013, was a new beginning for the New York Islanders in a few ways. It was the start of a new training camp and a new season as well as their first visit to their future home.
On Saturday, September 21st, the Islanders and Devils will play the first NHL game at the Barclay’s Center when they meet in a preseason contest. More than 10,000 tickets have already been sold for that historic contest.
The Islanders resume training camp Friday at Ice Works in Syosset.